The USGenWeb Project & USGenWeb, Inc.


The purpose of this announcement is to assure the volunteers of The USGenWeb Project and the Internet genealogical community that The USGenWeb Project is committed to continuance as a *Not-For-Profit* organization. Recent events have made this announcement necessary. These events actually occured in early 1998. However, there is still so much controversy surrounding the use of certain servers and how this will effect The USGenWeb Project. The basics outlined in this message still hold true and we do want all volunteers and USGW users to be reassured that our position has not changed.

History of the Project:
The USGenWeb Project was established in June 1996 with the goal providing Internet-based *FREE* access to genealogical resources on the web. Since then, the Project has grown to include about 3,050 of the 3,137 counties in the United States. The associated Archives Project, as of April 1, has over 588 megs of data in text format for FREE downloading. That doesn't include images of actual documents. Other major projects include: The Census-Online Project, The Tombstone Project, and The Military Records Project. It is estimated that over 1,641 volunteers are involved in the various aspects of The USGenWeb Project.

Until recently (March 22, 1998), The USGenWeb Project's main webpages were mirrored at three sites: www.usgenweb.com on the USRoots server, www.usgenweb.org and www.usgenweb.net on the RootsWeb server.

Unfortunately, due to actions taken by three volunteers, the webpages located at the www.usgenweb.com domain name have been discontinued. Volunteers for The USGenWeb Project should use either usgenweb.org or usgenweb.net as links in their websites and make any changes as soon as possible.

A brief history of the events leading to this situation are outlined below for those who may be interested:

USGenWeb Inc. Formed Without Board Knowledge:
On January 1, 1998, Jerry and Lucy Dill and Pat Smith incorporated (unknown to anyone on The USGenWeb Project Advisory Board) themselves as a *FOR PROFIT* corporation called USGenWeb, Inc. When this was discovered by the Advisory Board on March 16, 1998, it came as a great shock since one of the main webpages (www.usgenweb.com) was located on a domain maintained by one of the incorporators. The immediate concern was that volunteers and users of the website might get the wrong impression that The USGenWeb Project had become a for-profit organization, which is NOT true.

USGenWeb Inc. Claims Ownership of The USGenWeb Project:
The Advisory Board held email conversations with Mr. Dill, and during those conversations, it became clear that while he apologized for his actions and gave assurances that he meant no ill, he was unwilling to agree that the usgenweb.com designation was anything less than his property (or more specifically, the *property* of his corporation, USGenWeb, Inc.).

On the other hand, the individuals who had registered usgenweb.org and usgenweb.net both publicly stated that those designations *DO* belong to The USGenWeb Project, and that they act only in a custodial capacity for the benefit of The USGenWeb Project and its users.

During the course of the same email conversations, Mr. Dill offered to sell USGenWeb, Inc. to the Advisory Board for $750 (the incorporation fee). However, he stated that the Advisory Board would have to be reorganized on his terms. The current Advisory Board flatly refused to accept this demand and the offer of USGenWeb, Inc. The reasoning of Board was that it didn't matter who owned USGenWeb, Inc. It's a "for-profit" Subchapter S Corporation and no matter the reason for its incorporation, as long as it was associated with The USGenWeb Project, it would imply that the Project was also "for-profit."

USGenWeb Inc. Claims Ownership of The USGenWeb Project Pages:
At this point, the Board decided to remove The USGenWeb Project website from the usgenweb.com domain. Project members with authorized password access to the server did so on March 21, 1998. The Board also requested that all Project volunteers change any links on their websites from usgenweb.com to either usgenweb.org or usgenweb.net which are hosted by Rootsweb. To the best of our knowledge, this request has been accepted by volunteers with at the most, minimal discontent.

Unfortunately, after these changes were made (i.e., removing the national website), Jerry Dill of USGenWeb, Inc. then stated that the corporation owned The USGenWeb Project pages, that the pages were removed illegally, and that they had been mirrored at usgenweb.net and usgenweb.org on the RootsWeb server only with permission. This was outrageous and totally unacceptable news to the Advisory Board. It would be tantamount to a parking garage claiming ownership of your car if you parked it in their facility.

Confusion Caused by Format of usgenweb.com Site:
Since then, the usgenweb.com site has made several changes to webpages there, the most recent being a webpage displaying The USGenWeb Project map with links to the states and a page related to The On-line Census Project. The Advisory Board has requested *in writing* that those pages be removed. The Board feels that the posting of those pages on that domain name continues to be a source of confusion to the genealogical community, implying that there is some connection between USGenWeb, Inc. and The USGenWeb Project. We want to do everything possible to assure that the level of confusion is reduced. This announcement is part of that effort.

Recent Actions of The USGenWeb Advisory Board:
1. The formation of two committees: Elections Committee and By-Laws/Website Standards Committee. While informal discussion of this has been ongoing, these have only just been formed (the names aren't even official yet), but plans are to include additional non-board volunteers as members to be involved with the processes of both.

2. Other issues seem to constantly sidetrack any progress the Board is making in getting anything done. We are continually called upon to try to *put out fires* created by inflammatory messages to several of the lists. For the record, decisions announced by the national coordinator are made only after consulting the Board.

3. Investigation of "Unincorporated Nonprofit Association" status. We are trying to learn whether every state has such an act. "Nonprofit Association" means an unincorporated organization, other than one created by a trust, consisting of three or more members joined by mutual consent for a common, nonprofit purpose.

Recommendations for Volunteer Pages:
The USGenWeb Project Advisory Board would like to encourage all volunteers to place the following on their websites:
Copyright 1999 by (your name)
And, be sure to change to 2000 next January 1st. (If you'd like to use the copyright symbol on your page, the html is © )


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If you have comments about The USGenWeb Project or would like to report administrative-type problems, please email the National Coordinator. If you have a complaint regarding a specific web site which cannot be addressed by contacting the coordinator in charge, please include the URL address when emailing the National Coordinator.

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